The conflict in Syria has has claimed more than 93,000 lives. Around 5.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes with nearly 1.8 million now refugees in neighbouring countries. Arming the rebels will only worsen this tragedy, which might have been avoided.
Following what was seen as a successful intervention in Libya western governments have provided non-lethal aid to the rebels, with many, like UK Foreign Minister Hague, favouring arming the rebels. The shift to civil war was fueled by rebel hopes that the west would supply arms. (Regional surrogates Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have already been doing so.) The increasing involvement of al-Quaeda in the conflict, reminiscent of the influx to Afghanistan of international jihadists who later turned against the US & NAT,O should ring alarm bells. But such concerns are not likely to keep western governments from intervening for much longer. The UK has not yet done so. But in July, despite the advice of its senior military Commander that aiding the rebels was likely to lead to a catastrophe akin to Ir,aq two US congressional committees cleared the way for CIA arms transfers. Echoing Bush’s spurious claims that Saddam was harbouring weapons of mass destruction, President Obama justified the move, declaring Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, warned that both the regime and rebels are committing atrocities against minors. She said she met “children who saw siblings die in front of them and teenagers who had fought with armed opposition groups.” (Kansas City Star, July 22) “Around 7,000 children under the age of 15 have been killed. Half of the refugees are children, …more than 3 million children are in desperate need of humanitarian aid. A recent U.N. report placed the Free Syrian Army, on its “list of shame” for recruiting child soldiers. Syrian government forces were added to the list for torturing and sexually assaulting minors”
The Peace and Justice Centre joins with the Scottish refugee Council in calling for the EU to open its borders to refugees and with Oxfam in calling for the UK to increase aid inside Syria and across the region, and support efforts to find a peaceful, not military, end to the crisis. Readers can Sign the petition to Foreign Secretary William Hague Here: